The Grayson resident, along with his 7-year-old border collie "Einstein," were among the dogs and their owners who competed during the first day of the U.S. Disc Dog Nationals and World Championships, which are being held at Dellinger Park in Cartersville. The event resumes today at 11 a.m., with the competition's final round to be held about 2 p.m.
"We started doing Frisbee, our big sport is agility, and Frisbee was just kind of a way for our dogs to kind of break that mental barrier, and [allow us to] have a little fun with our dogs. That's really what it's all about -- having a lot of fun with your dogs," said McConaughey, who also brought several other dogs to compete during the weekend. "[Einstein and I] have been competing in Frisbee for about three and a half years. We started with toss-and-fetch, and then just the last three years, we were doing the freestyle.
"I would recommend anybody get out and enjoy time with their dog," McConaughey added. "It's just one of those things, it doesn't have to be Frisbee -- the Atlanta area has [a lot of dog activities]. Atlanta is a remarkable dog community for anything with your dog. For Frisbee, you need a dog with a little bit of prey drive to go after the Frisbee -- some dogs don't naturally want to go after something. But there's just so many other things that you can do. On any given weekend in Atlanta, there's probably two or three different competitions going on."
Competing with her 5-year-old border collie "Wick" was Laura O'Neill of Bear, Del., chairwoman of U.S. Disc Dog Nationals, the competition's sanctioning body. She has been involved with the sport for 14 years. She said she began with Wick when he was a puppy, and he was chasing Frisbees across the room at 8 weeks of age.
"Like many herding breeds, he needs a job, and Frisbee is an awesome outlet for that," O'Neill said. "So many of these dogs wind up in shelters and in rescues because there's quite a commitment to having a dog like this. They're very high drive, always wanting something to do and always moving -- even when you think he's sleeping, you move just an inch, he's up.
"This is an awesome opportunity to see competitors from around the world," O'Neill said. "For me, it's about coming down and competing with my dog, he loves it, and also really seeing some of the best teams out there and figuring out what I can 'steal' from them."
Two main areas of competition are featured this weekend -- freestyle, where judges bestow points based on elements presented by the canine, his or her handler, or both; and toss-and-fetch, where teams score points based on the distance of each throw, its location on the field and whether the dog is airborne during the catch
O'Neill and her fellow competitors, along with spectators, have plenty to see this weekend. In addition to disc dog teams from across the country, the competition has drawn several former world finalists and contenders from Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Japan, Poland and Spain.
Melissa Heeter, president of the event's organizer, WOOF! Sports USA, said today's proceedings will feature the sport's "big guns," as teams will compete in super-pro toss-and-fetch division, while the top 18 freestylers from Saturday will take part in the finals.
Though dog owners from across the country and even locally have come to compete this weekend, Heeter said the weekend also offers opportunities for those not looking to take part in the competition.
"It's a fun-filled family day where a lot of people are starting to do more things with their dog and realize there's more things to do than just going for walk," Heeter said. "Walks are great, but getting interactive with your dog is more fun. And we're finding more and more families getting involved.
"What we'd like people to do is if they're interested in being active with their dog at all, they should come on out and try one of the dog sports," she added. "[Sunday], we don't have open toss-and-fetch divisions, we did that [Saturday], but we do have duck herding instinct testing, where they can see if their dog wants to test herding, and then we also have lure coursing, and that's a lot of fun because it mimics chasing a rabbit on the ground."
The event also serves as a fundraiser for the Etowah Valley Humane Society. In addition to on-site pet adoptions, the nonprofit also will benefit from the proceeds of food concession sales.
"Anything that can showcase the canines in a less-hostile or less-intimidating environment, we definitely we want to be a part of it," said EVHS Director Bryan Canty, whose organization had eight animals on display for potential adopters Saturday. "We're for the ethical treatment of animals, and we just think it's a perfect marriage. It's giving us exposure, it's hopefully helping out [Heeter], but the main thing is it gives the opportunity for people who won't dare step foot into a shelter to see them in an innocuous setting."
For more information on the U.S. Disc Dog Nationals and World Championships, visit www.usddn.com. The event also will be streamed live at www.woofsports.com and barknetwork.com.